(EurActiv) — Bulgaria, Romania and Latvia had the most road deaths per capita in the EU in 2015, tarnishing the EU’s record on vehicle safety in a year when the number of people killed by vehicle crashes rose for the first time in almost twenty years.
Around ten people per 100,000 residents were killed by vehicles last year in Bulgaria, according to figures published today by Eurostat. Bulgaria’s roads are the most deadly, topping the list with the most deaths in the EU.
Violeta Bulc, the EU transport policy chief, has increased pressure on national governments to crack down on reckless and dangerous drivers since it was revealed earlier this year that the number of traffic deaths increased between 2014 and 2015 across all 28 EU countries.
“We lose 70 people per day in Europe on European roads and we’ve done enormous efforts to bring this number down,” Bulc told reporters yesterday.
Bulc has said that driverless cars could help to decrease the number of people killed in traffic. Her office will publish a strategy paper at the end of this month with details of how the Commission will speed up the development of driverless car technology. The executive is already funding research on driverless cars and meeting with industry groups and car companies to hammer out new policies, including on how driverless cars will use roads and car insurance rules.
The European Commission pledged to slash the number of road deaths down to around 16,000 per year by 2020. Last year, 26,000 people were killed on roads in the EU. In 2010, 31,400 people died as the result of vehicle crashes.
Road deaths have generally declined in the EU over the last 20 years, but 2015 marked a small increase in the number of people killed on roads for the first time since 1997.
Malta and Sweden recorded the lowest numbers of road deaths, according to the 2015 figures.
Traffic injuries and deaths are on the rise in EU countries. Last year, injuries and deaths went up by 26.7% in Cyprus compared to 2014 numbers. In Finland, crashes caused 16.2% more injuries and deaths in 2015. Croatia, Austria, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Malta also reported significant increases in injuries and deaths caused by vehicle crashes.
In 2001, the European Commission adopted an action programme with the objective of halving the number of road fatalities by 2010, from around 40,000 per year. The programme was broadly successful, resulting in a reduction of casualties to over 35,000 in 2009, which is the equivalent of a medium-sized town.
The programme has since been replaced by a new one running until 2020, with seven strategic objectives. Measures include mandatory safety measures for vehicles, safer road infrastructure, better safety enforcement and a focus on motorcyclists.
The Commission wants to halve the number of road deaths in the EU between 2010 and 2020. As of the end of 2015, the figure had only dropped by 17%.